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Ashland children's library nears opening

ASHLAND ' With half their books in storage and the rest tucked in an upstairs corner of the new library, Ashland children are looking forward to the late January opening of the children's library in the completely restored Carnegie building.

The million-dollar fix-up will make the 1912 Carnegie library into a huge, modern space for kids about up to middle school age ' and provide community meeting rooms in the basement.

It's been a hard year, said Walt Wright, children's librarian, after reading a book to a group of toddlers. We've been living in each other's pockets, especially when we were all crammed in only part of the Carnegie (during construction of the new library earlier this year).

Things are better since the new wing opened this fall, but many patrons are actually sad they're not in the crowded little Carnegie, said Librarian Perii Owen, who reads to children on Thursdays. It was a cozy, sentimental place.

The Carnegie is still festooned with tools and building materials, but it has lost its nonhistoric add-on room and shelves are in along all walls ' soon to be stained like the original dark oak columns.

The walls are painted a dark tan, as they were in the early 1900s, and the floor will be carpeted ' a modern touch. In replastering the old walls, Adroit Construction of Ashland ran into difficulties getting a new surface to stick to the old, said Reference Librarian Amy Blossom, thus accounting for some of the brief delay in opening.

People have been very patient, both staff and public, said Chief Librarian Bob Wilson. They know we're all in this together; they understand the process, and we all know we're going to emerge with something really special.

The idea for turning the dilapidated Carnegie into a children's library arose when Wilson heard a child tell her mother that coming to the old Carnegie was just like walking to the Carnegie in the town they had moved from.

The Carnegies all over the country give a continuity, Wilson said, because they all look similar and have a comfortable, familiar feel. So we decided, for the children, to keep that memory intact.

The Children's Reading Hour at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays has long been a mainstay of the children's program and recently has been held upstairs in the new library. It will be shifted to the Carnegie when it opens.

It's great entertainment, and keeps my son Alec riveted, said Karen Bolden. Alec is so into reading, and we're looking forward to the space of the new kid library. It was so crammed there.

It's like taking my daughter (Hannah) to a play, said Victoria Hilden. They act it out and have a lot of fun interaction ' and I'm thankful they're doing a separate library for the kids.

Olivia gets a lot of social contact at the readings, said Grace Robert of her 2-year-old daughter.

The new children's library will house 30,000 titles and a raft of computers, many connected to the Internet. Even though the kids' and adults' libraries are in separate buildings, neither will be a quiet place, Wilson hopes.

The day of the quiet library is gone, the chief librarian said. When I taught school, my classroom was not quiet. It's the sound of activity and learning you hear.

Keith Evans of Adroit Construction Co. has been restoring the concrete steps to the old section of the Ashland Library, part of the branch?s renovation and expansion. The old section, a Carnegie-funded library, will house the kids? library. Mail Tribune / Roy Musitelli - Mail Tribune Roy Musitelli